Thursday, April 07, 2005

About time...

I found this in the SMH...

A climate-change levy, national energy-efficiency standards for buildings and an ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target should be adopted by the Labor Party to strengthen its existing climate change policies, MP Peter Garrett said last night.

There should be also be a debate about the pros and cons of nuclear energy, the former rock singer and head of the Australian Conservation Foundation said, though he remained unconvinced it was a safe alternative.

I think more effort needs to be put into the viability of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy has a bad reputation mainly due to the media and greenies putting their own spin on it.

The two incidents that always come to mind over nuclear energy is Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Three Mile Island was a non event, it was simply a small release of radioactive gas into the containment vessel. Safety barriers did their job and there was no risk to residents who lived nearby.

Chernobyl on the other hand was a major meltdown. During testing of reactor number 4, a series of safety procedures were disregarded and in combination with the flawed design of the reactor and untrained staff, the reactor overheated which caused a steam explosion that blew the lid off the reactor, releasing about 5% of the reactor core. Some 31 people were killed, and there have since been around ten deaths from thyroid cancer apparently due to the accident. A UN report in 2000 concluded that there is no scientific evidence of any significant radiation-related health effects to most people exposed. Reactor 3 at Chernobyl has only just been decommissioned.

There are many countries that rely on nuclear energy for the power needs, France, Indonesia, Russia, Britain and the US are all big users of nuclear energy. Modern reactor design virtually eliminates the possibility of meltdown. The waste produced is still an issue though. One of the best solutions I have heard is to encased the waste in super hard glass and dropped into tectonic subduction zones to be reabsorbed by the earth.

And even if we are worried about the effects of a meltdown here in Australia, why don't we put the reactor in the middle of nowhere, which coincidentally is closer to where the fuel is mined. Putting a reactor out near Kalgoorlie or Meekatharra where the population is virtually nil would be the smart place to put something like that.

What do you guys think?


Tom said...

I tend to think that nuclear energy sounds like a fantastic alternative to "fossil" fuels.

But perhaps nuclear energy is tomorrow 's environment crisis. It is difficult to see how, but that doesn't mean there is a risk we are not aware of.

I like the idea of dumping the waste back into the earth, which sounds clean and sensible, but what would REALLY happen. What consequences would there be?

Unfortunately we will still need oil as so much of our wonderful modern inventions rely on the chemicals extracted from them. Think of a world without plastic.

tealou said...

In the case of nuclear energy, I don't think that it is necessarily Green misrepresentation - even though some can be a tad dramatic!

Given emerging (and very exciting) energy technologies, it might pay to hang out for a little while for newer, more efficient systems. Its not just about diesel v gas v nuclear v solar - there are a number of hybrids, and a number of highly efficient diesel systems that would work far better than nuclear energy.

For me, nuclear power's risks still far outweigh its benefits.